Do the girls you coach clam up on the field? Mine talk all the time…on the sidelines
and during warmups.
But on the field? It’s like pulling teeth.
In a newsletter I read, New Moon Girls, fifteen year old Amanda observed that girls were happy to pitch in on impersonal, non-relational topics but were sometimes reluctant to disagree with another girl or apologized for disagreeing. She said,
Girls frequently used phrases such as “no offense,” “I’m sorry, but…,” or “Please don’t hate me…” when stating opinions.
That’s my girls. They don’t want to tell each other what to do. There’s an (unwritten) social code that prohibits disagreeing. It’s considered bossy, pushy, know-it-all. And it puts you at risk of being on the outs with your group. So instead of risking it, they lose their voice.
After all on the soccer field, who has time for niceties like…
- “Hey, Jill, can you send it this way if you see a chance? I’m open down the line.”
- “Caroline, no offense, but you’ve got 4 players in front of you, if you want to pass it I’m here in case you need me.”
- “Hi, Allison, I’m sorry but I think you may not have noticed I am open over here on the left.”
This is girl-speak. And on the playing field, it needs to be rapid fire soccer speak. In soccer speak, Jill hears LINE! Caroline hears SUPPORT! and Allison hears YES! But girls won’t use it …unless you insist.
So how can we give girls the language that will work and permission to use it? Practice it. And make it fun. I have a couple games I use:
- Turn on the faucet – when the ball is in play, everyone everywhere on the field says whatever they are thinking (hopefully about soccer). It’s mass chaos with everybody speaking at once, but that makes it “safe” for the girls. They hear themselves and realize they have something to say.
- Character Voices – everyone gets to communicate in a voice and inflection of their choice, just like if they are reading a character in a book or play. This is safe because it’s “someone else’s voice” and it’s fun to do. Plus, there are plenty of characters who are famous for saying what you want to say like Nemo’s friends the gulls, “mine, mine.”
- Big Mouth – reward the players who speak up. During a session or scrimmage, praise players for volume and vocal contribution to the game effort. Be sure to emphasize the value of positive comments. The Positive Coaching Alliance recommends a 5 positive to 1 negative ratio for best effect. Girls respond to the positive.
- Say What? – give players a quick situation and ask: Say What? This helps create a “team langauge.” Then be sure to reward this verbally when you hear it from them on the field.
Last thing (and you may not believe this); once you get players to speak soccer, tween girls and younger will ask:
“but coach if we call that out loud, the other team will hear and know what we’re gonna do!”
Yep – that’s the other reason girls don’t speak up. They’re trying to be tricky. And in practice where everyone has heard what they’re planning to do (and may run ahead of the play to foil their efforts), the trick is convincing them that quick execution beats the other team’s reaction every time.
Get them to try it on game day. Turn on the faucets, open the flood gates, use cartoon voices. Whatever works. Because once they connect on that combination and leave the would-be defender in the dust, they’ll trust each other and themselves. Then all that’s left is the high five and the…
“No, nice pass.”
” No way, it was that great run you made.”
Girls after all will be girls.